Highway 61 wrote:
Lax's book consists of about four or five major interviews, focused heavily on the films Allen was making at the time. For instance, there is a wealth of material on Sleeper and Another Woman, which Lax was around to see Allen shooting and editing. Whereas Bjorkman's Allen on Allen is a series of interviews covering his entire career that is great at introducing Allen's style and explaining his more esoteric films, and it also introduces you to Allen's "I'm not a real artist, and I wish I didn't have to die" personality, which is unlike virtually every other filmmaker's mentality. But if you're already familiar with Allen's work and personality, the Lax book is far more satisfying. Conversations also features a list of Allen's 15 favorite films, for what it's worth.
Ironically, I just finished Lax's new Allen book this morning (read the first 3/4 last night before bed, finished the last 1/4 on the bus - I'm a pretty fast reader), and it's magnificent, though for me it's more the perfect companion piece to the 2001 edition of Lax's Allen biography than a superior volume.
Part of what's exciting about Conversations
is how incredibly up to date it is, going right up to Cassandra's Dream
, but it also gives Allen the rare opportunity to discuss many films of his that haven't received sufficient coverage in other books (like Alice
, Anything Else
, Melinda and Melinda
), and it also gives Allen the opportunity to vividly express his feelings about cinematography (lots and lots of juicy information about working with Gordon Willis, Carlo Di Palma and Sven Nykvist), scoring and casting, among many other topics. Moreso than the other books, it also demonstrates Allen constant (endless!) self-deprecation. He may be the single-most exceedingly humble great artist I know of (refreshing indeed in a field filled with egomaniacs, including some of my own favorite filmmakers of course). I found it tremendously inspiring, and I just love Allen's personality, style and work ethic. I don't believe there's another filmmaker in cinema's history who's nearly as consistently impressive as Allen, though that's my opinion and not one a great many others share (here or elsewhere).
For fun, here is Allen's list of the greatest films ever made (in no order):
The Seventh Seal
The Bicycle Thief
Rules of the Game
Throne of Blood
Cries and Whispers
The 400 Blows
And there are mounds and mounds of trivia and facts, a few I found interesting:
-a fair amount of Anything Else
(for me one of his ten best) derived from his first (unpublished) novel.
-the first cut of Scoop
was 134 minutes, and included a lot of exposition. Another edit was 100 minutes, the final cut was 91.
-the Paris project with Michelle Williams went $5+ million overbudget, and a lot of that was apparently attributed to music. He says he still wants to do it, if he can get the additional funding. It doesn't seem to me like it would be that hard for him to get the additional funding, but I'm not entirely sure what the circumstances were.
-one idea for Cassandra's Dream's
music was to have it all be Miles Davis, but apparently the money it would've cost to use Davis was insane. Philip Glass was suggested by one of the people on production.
And this is just a taste. There's also some great information Allen divulges about screenplays he's written that he hasn't filmed yet, and much more. Also, for fans of Another Woman
(one of my favorites, and a particularly gorgeous-looking late eighties Allen) much of this is a great account on its making and editing.
This is a must even for the casual Allen fan, hardcore fans should read both this and Lax's biography.